Chris Metkiff, owner of Swarthmore Financial in New Castle, knows “there are a lot of numbers in the world” but he’s concerned people aren’t thinking about the right ones for wealth management.
“People think that the biggest pile of money wins,” he says, but they too often forget about other key factors, such as market volatility, longevity and tax efficiency (meaning how much Uncle Sam gets).
He doubles down with this metaphor: “A mountain climber doesn’t say his goal is to get to the top of the mountain. It’s to get there and get down safely.”
“Chris is a remarkable man who will do great things,” says Chuck Paff, his predecessor as president and owner and his mentor. “From the day I hired Chris, he brought a style to our office. He has that New York efficiency with a Southern charm and politeness.”
Metkiff and his firm are outliers in a business that he says is dominated by 55-year-old white males. He’s 33, and the staff of 23 has an average age of about 40, is a third female and counts three Koreans and three blacks. Such “diversity is the makeup of the world and the area, and we need to mirror that,” he says about how he shepherds the growth of the fee- and commission-based company, which targets affluent individuals, business owners and corporate clients. It has about 4,700 clients (12 percent under the age of 35, The News Journal reported) and revenue of $2 million a year.
He also makes Swarthmore Financial active in the community. It supports the Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition and Easter Seals of Delaware and Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Associates have joined hands (and feet, for 5Ks) for other nonprofits. He serves on the board of Delaware Futures and the St. Elizabeth Parish Council and advises the University of Delaware on its new personal finance major.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in math from UD, and he got interested in wealth management at a UD job fair by Paff. He got hired right after graduation and was steadily promoted.
“He has always been a leader. When I saw the respect of his friends, I was impressed. He’s exceptionally bright. I’d watch him grasp complicated things quickly. He attracts people to him,” says Paff. “Chris doesn’t settle for second-best. He’s had a vision from the very beginning. He joined the [National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors] and was elected to a leadership position early in his career.”
In his work, Metkiff emphasized personal relationships to understand clients’ financial goals, a way to get there and periodic check-ups. He says his own top goal is to “provide for my family with a lifestyle that outlives me.” He reviews his progress every three months.
Mentioning he is looking into adding branches downstate and in South Jersey, he says such personal advice doesn’t work on the phone or online. “There are a lot of emotional decisions to be made.”